Eco-driving important for UAE until such time public transport serves needs
Turning a new leaf: As part of The National’s Earth Matters coverage, we look at some potential New Year’s resolutions for the UAE to help the environment, in a series examining meat consumption, water conservation, food waste and driving habits.
ABU DHABI // In a car-centric country with sweltering summers, encouraging people to switch to public transport might be inconvenient at the moment but experts say altering they way we drive can reduce our individual emissions.
Until public transport develops to the point of making its use more convenient than driving, UAE residents need to look for other ways to reduce their driving carbon footprint.
According to Simon Labbett, project director at Sheida, an Omani road safety body, there are ways to lower emissions simply by driving with fuel economy in mind, rather than speed.
Mr Labbett suggests that driving techniques such as avoiding harsh acceleration, using lower revs and looking ahead to manage driving by anticipation can lower your carbon emissions.
“For example, don’t keep accelerating into a hazard when, with a little more planning, you could have eased off and still arrived at the same point without loss of journey time,” he said.
In fact, ecodriver.org said that “jackrabbit starts” – when the accelerator is floored, making the tyres spin – from one light to the next save only 2.5 minutes an hour but increase fuel consumption by more than a third.
“Not only is this good for the environment, it also makes you a safer driver. Excessive speed burns significantly more fuel. Where possible, set the cruise control within the speed limit for constant speed and minimum use of acceleration,” said Mr Labbett.
Tanzeed Alam, the climate and energy director at the Emirates Wildlife Society, said that public transport can be inconvenient at certain times of the year, and although that was improving, in the meantime measures could be taken to reduce the effect of driving on the environment.
According to a study by the Natural Resource Department of the government of Canada, for every 10 kilometres an hour over 100kph, drivers are decreasing their fuel efficiency by 10 per cent.
This translates into money. A commuter going from Abu Dhabi to Dubai every day at the speed limit of 140kph is decreasing fuel efficiency by 40 per cent, and spending that much more on fuel every year. The savings from driving at 100kph for a long-distance commuter can be thousands of dirhams annually.
For those unwilling to sacrifice time for efficiency, Mr Alam also suggested that people should keep tyres correctly inflated for maximum fuel efficiency and consider buying a hybrid car.
“When people do choose to buy a new car, they can choose to buy one that is more efficient. The cost of fuel has started to increase because it isn’t subsidised any more, and that can make a difference,” he said.
Along with Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, Mr Alam worked on developing a vehicle fuel emission standard to improve the efficiency of cars in the UAE market.
The standard will push car manufacturers to provide vehicles that meet a certain fuel efficiency rating starting as early as this year. Each passing year should see standards increase, with a potential ban on petrol-guzzlers also being mooted.
But before that happens and while fuel is still cheap, there is an environmental responsibility that should be considered, Mr Labbett said.
“In the GCC countries, where fuel is cheap, the focus on fuel efficiency has not been a concern for the economy of driving, but we each have a responsibility for the environment,” he said.
A New Leaf: Green resolutions for 2017: